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Month: October 2014

Reading Meg Day

 

THERE’S SNOW IN THE WEST

 

& there’s snow in the east
& there’s snow in our beds
icing the cabbage. Since you left
me alone, the wasp nest
swallowing the bulb
in the porch light has gone
leaden & each night the asphalt
is honeycombed in its half-
lidded light
                          while the laundry—frozen
stiff on the line—sways from its hinges
like the moon flag that waves
without wind.
                              I am not praying.
I’m longing: Please. Let summer
be a good shot, an untraceable track;
let the beautiful animal of this working
class winter loose its vise grip
on your throat before the kill.
The kettle is steaming the windows,
lined with bubble-wrap, & the peaches
are ripening in their cans.
                                                  Come home. Come home.

 

HYMN TO A LANDLOCKED GOD

 

Perhaps as a child
you, too, saw
these stallion clouds
& knew a sky
with no blue
was a sky too
reverent to be
overlooked
or understood.
Perhaps heaven
is the moon flag,
not the moon,
& you came
to know praise
as vertical only
because the earth
refused your reach.
Look up.
There’s a tear
in the sky tonight
like the shriek
of a frightened mare
or the long wail
a saxophone makes
on a corner at dawn
& this is how I know
you are a woman:
we are both broken
in two by our own
creations. I have
looked to the west
in search of water
& the sheer faces
of so many boulders
stare back, their bodies
bent in genuflection
at the altar of the sky.
Why have you made me
know the sea?
Make me a bird, Lord;
make me a man.
Make me a barn
with a spine so swayed
it pulls back my neck
to crane toward the sky.

 

GHAZAL FOR FINALLY LEAVING WHAT HAS ALREADY LEFT

 

I imagine there were angels once, or at least the sound of them,
trumpeting some broken hallelujah against the ceiling above that bed.

There must have been electricity—a current—to power
the elaborate maneuvering that kept me fastened to that bed.

I don’t remember much: the arrivals & departures blurred as healing scars
& the kitchen always quiet. There was little concern for bedlam or bedtime

& the mornings it snowed kept me close to the windows, screens thawing—
like my want—wired & damp. At night, a phantom weight beside me in the
          bed.

I imagine spring could have begun kindly & coaxed the steady stride
of summer into its measured snare—an entire season of sickness, bed-

bound alone with The Book of Hours—then swung hard into September,
pocket watches leaned open in palms like old men in gold rockers; beds

like deep yawns, yawns like gaping coffins. Lord, what was I
but made in your image: invisible. I come to you a cavern of bedrock,

rendered acquiescent. I arrive secondhand. You, Lord, are the woman I
          longed to be
or be with, the walking ache of so many confessions, the merciful repository
          embedded

in surrender. Come: weep in my arms. If you are the beginning & end, then
          let us be
what we are best: the slow departure, the unlikely subsistence, bedmates
          without a bed.

 

*

 

all from Meg Day’s Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street Press, 2014)

 

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Moving Forward, Moving Back: Reading Jason Odell Williams’ Personal Statement

 

Jason Odell Williams_Personal StatementWe’ve all been there. We reached the final year of high school and discovered the college, the school, the job, the career that we wanted, and we attempted to move forward. We did everything we thought we needed to do—and more—to ensure that we would land one of the open seats in the version of the future that we wanted most. But sometimes, that “more” becomes problematic; we go in too deep, lose ourselves along the way, perhaps do some things we wouldn’t normally do—or for reasons we wouldn’t have previously considered. Jason Odell Williams explores these potential problems as he leads us down four very unique paths toward Ivy League schools, scholarships and higher positions on the corporate (or, in this case, political) ladder.

When I first started reading Personal Statement, I thought I would be reading four accounts of completely separate lives that only shared the difficult acts of writing the personal statement and applying to the “right college.” But it proves to be much more than that. These four characters either know one another or meet over the course of the journey, reminding us not only of how small the world can be but, perhaps more importantly, how our decisions impact others. Two of the main characters, Emily and Rani (pronounced “Ronnie”), are best friends on very different paths (though this is unknown to Emily Kim): Emily being the overly-driven, all-that-matters-is-getting-into-Harvard-no-matter-the-costs high school senior, while Rani is more or less burnt-out, looking for a much more easy-going, fulfilling, perhaps equestrian, lifestyle. Then there’s Robert, a homosexual African American student who wants only to start over in Europe, rather than pursue the college of his family’s choice; also, he met Emily previously at a student program, beginning first as friends, only to let their competitive natures get the better of them. Last, we see A.J. (or Alexis), a mid-twenties woman who has already gone through the personal statement process but who finds herself throwing herself into a new job suddenly, in the hopes of getting her foot in the door at the White House, which involves interacting with these teens directly over the course of a weekend. Each of these four find themselves looking for that final leg up, something to help them stand out—maybe some unique volunteer work? A hurricane blowing into Connecticut, perhaps?

Yes, exactly. So we find these four characters colliding in a small town in Connecticut, offering up their (kindest? most sincere? intrinsic?) services, with the thought in the back of their minds of using this experience for a resume, personal statement or future job application. This is where the heart of the story is, where the sentiment is at its most complicated: we’re watching four people who want something so much that they are willing to do something wonderful (volunteering to help those in need at a potentially dire time) for the completely wrong reasons. So then we’re forced to ask the question, “Can performing a good deed ever impact our character negatively?” I feel Emily, Rani, A.J. and Robert spend much of their stories interacting with and answering this exact question, determining what can result from misplaced intentions, or perhaps wanting the wrong thing—or wanting something far too much.

Jason Odell Williams’ debut novel, Personal Statement, is a fine piece of young adult literature, teeming with humor and wit, and asking major questions about motive and priorities, as well as engaging with some of the more interesting developmental questions that come with adolescence (see, perhaps, James Marcia’s developmental model, which I couldn’t help but constantly think back to while reading these characters’ journeys). Rotating between characters chapter-by-chapter, I found this to be a difficult one to put down, wanting to continue listening to one character’s journey, and later marveling at their interconnectedness toward the end. Perhaps there will be some parents who will take offense at this, but I agree with earlier reviews that see this as a must-read for graduating seniors, their parents, and even their school counselors who may or may not assist in the college application process. Sometimes we have to slow down and reconsider our desires and how they are prioritized and what we’re willing to do and who we’re willing to be to gain those desires—and Williams’ novel is one to encourage just that.

 

JASON ODELL WILLIAMS is an Emmy Award-nominated writer & producer of the television series, “Brain Games”—the highest rated show on the National Geographic Channel. As a playwright, his work has been produced at regional theatres across the country and in New York City. Originally from Columbia, Maryland, and a graduate of The University of Virginia, Jason lives in New York City with his actress-singer-director-producer wife, Charlotte Cohn, and their daughter, Imogen, who is working on her hyphenates as we speak. Personal Statement is his first novel. For more please visit his website.

 

 

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Receiving an Honorable Mention for My Chapbook!!

 

Wonderful news! My chapbook (or chapbook-length poem), Dear Earth / There Are Birds, received an Honorable Mention in this year’s Celery City Chapbook Contest.

Here is the list of Winners and Honorable Mentions:

CJ Giroux, Destination, Michigan, Winner
Marci Rae Johnson, Dictionary of Theories, Winner
Nicole Burchette, Influence, Winner
Eben Gering, (title not released), Honorable Mention
Kathleen McGookey, (title not released), Honorable Mention
McKenzie Lynn Tozan, Dear Earth / There Are Birds, Honorable Mention

In addition to publication, the Winners will receive fifty copies of their chapbook; and all of those above mentioned will be invited to read this Spring. I will post again about this when I have the details.

Thank you, Friends of Poetry, and the judges involved in the Celery City Chapbook Contest. I am greatly honored to be among those recognized this year, and I absolutely cannot wait to hear the others recognized at the reading this Spring!

 

 

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